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SCAN drama at the library

I went to a community meeting at the library on Thursday night about the proposed SCAN legislation (Bill 106) introduced by Ottawa Centre MPP Yasir Naqvi. (Who, incidentally, recognized me, shook my hand, told me he had read my blog, and said his mother would be proud that I had said he was polite.)

According to Mr. Naqvi, the proposed SCAN legislation would target only properties that are habitually used for illegal activity and which have a negative impact on their neighbourhood.

But Bill 106 is controversial (see my previous post about it), and it drew a polarized audience. There were people on both sides who felt very strongly about this Bill – and people weren’t necessarily aligned with their traditional allies.

For example, among people who advocate on behalf of low-income Canadians, there is some disagreement about the potential impact of proposed SCAN legislation. Some think everybody has the right not to live next door to drug addicts or sex trade workers, while others think that housing is a basic human right for everybody, including drug addicts and sex trade workers.

There’s more to it than that, of course. Much more. There’s the fact that some groups – including poor, visible minorities and the mentally ill – will be disproportionately affected by this legislation. There’s the issue of how useful is it to introduce new legislation that will add bureaucracy, cost money, and shuffle ‘problems’ around instead of addressing root causes. There’s the question of what we, as a society, are failing to provide in the way of mental health services, drug treatment programs, and supportive housing. There’s the fact that our crime rate has been falling for a number of years now, so why do we act as if there’s a crime problem spiraling out of control? And then there’s the problem of muddying housing issues with crime issues. If someone’s habitual illegal behaviour is causing such egregious problems for others, why would we consider eviction to be the appropriate remedy?

In jurisdictions that already have SCAN legislation – I believe Saskatchewan and Yukon do – almost all SCAN cases were resolved “informally.” Because the people involved are mostly poor and marginalized and unable to afford to defend themselves from these accusations, how do we know that the resolutions were fair? How do we know that people weren’t simply intimidated into abandoning their rights and their homes?

Once the panelists finished speaking, things got intense. Yasir Naqvi had to leave to catch a flight. This angered some people in the audience who felt it was disrespectful of him not to stay and respond to their questions. (To his credit, he offered to make himself available upon his return to Ottawa for further discussion with anyone who wanted to talk to him.)

One shrilly pro-SCAN woman brought her two little girls with her. They were maybe 6 and 7 years old, and I got the impression they were used to being used as props at community meetings. She marched them up to the microphone and demanded to know how she was supposed to explain the drug addicts and prostitutes in her neighbourhood to her two little girls.

It probably wasn’t helpful when a woman in the audience yelled out “They could be addicts in 10 years too!”

“Prove it!” yelled the mother.

“I was an addict and I used to be a cute little girl too,” replied the other woman.

In spite of the hostilities and drama, a few people made interesting points, especially those who didn’t seem so tightly wound.

One man said the fact that people are calling for SCAN legislation is evidence that there are problems that need to be fixed, but SCAN is not the solution to those problems. Another man said that he used to sell pot to make ends meet but his house was scrupulously clean, and he saw SCAN as having the potential to create a lot more problems than it can fix. A young woman said that she was queer and was concerned about the potential for neighbours who have a problem with her sexuality using SCAN to get rid of her.

“I see it being used as a tool for people to terrorize people like me,” she said.

Another woman said if the police were more accountable and were actually doing their jobs, we wouldn’t be talking about new legislation.

Anyway. It was an interesting meeting, and there were two inadvertently funny lines I have to share with you:

1) Yasir Naqvi said that he and Cheri DiNovo shit near each other in the Provincial Legislature.
2) Anne Levesque, from the Francophone Legal Aid Clinic, said the government is allowed to decapitate you, but it must do so fairly.

By the way, RealGrouchy blogged about this meeting too, but in a much more timely manner than me. Check it out.

8 comments to SCAN drama at the library

  • Jo

    Thanks for posting about this, Zoom. I was curious about the outcome of the meeting. I would hate to see legislation come into effect that can target one group over another rather than addressing people as individuals. I have very well behaved drug addicts on my street who never give me any trouble. But the Ottawa U students in the Man of Science’s neighbourhood are responsible for a huge part of the vandalism, theft, and disorderly conduct that occurs around there.

    I would like to decapitate them, fairly.


  • If the only tool you have is a hammer,every problem starts to look like a nail. If you are a politician then every problem can be cured b more legislation.
    Actually caring for the marginalized in our society would cost too much.
    Police, court, prison, the entire penal system doesn’t cost anything at all so it’s the best way to deal with all of society’s problems.

  • Thanks for the plug, zoom!

    To add to Bandobras’ comment, I think SCAN is a sledgehammer that’s going to whack a lot of fingernails.

    Hence my comment at the meeting that “the fact that people are calling for SCAN legislation is evidence that there are problems that need to be fixed, but SCAN is not the solution to those problems.” 😉

    (PS: “Nasir Yaqvi”?)

    – RG>

  • Gillian

    You write some very intelligent and thoughtful posts. I also like them because it gives me a perspective that I might not otherwise think of, and your ideas are clearly expressed. I sometimes forward the link to other people.

  • grace

    They really ‘shit’ next to each other? The rest I need to digest and think upon.

  • Julia

    I am glad you go to these things so I don’t have to. :)
    It’s like medical solutions to problems – people often prefer to take a pill rather than just go out for a walk. It seems like the walk is more work but the side effects are positive instead of negative like the pill. I much prefer the walk to the pill.

  • Jo, agreed. I particularly don’t like the way SCAN pits people against one another, emphasizing any “them” and “us” distinctions, and encouraging people to spy and snitch on one another.

    Bandobras, as you know, the costs of society’s punitive rather than preventative approach to crime (and its insistence on criminalizing drug use), are outrageously high. But instead of rethinking that approach, a lot of people see the solution as an even MORE punitive approach, such as increased sentences, a return to capital punishment, etc. It’s crazy.

    RealGrouchy – it suddenly occurred to me out of the clear blue sky earlier today that that was YOU who made that comment at the mic – which means you also made the witty comment about the rhetorical question. 😉 I didn’t know it was you at the time. Thanks, by the way, for the heads-up on the dyslexic typing. I fixed it.

    Thanks Gillian. I suspect SCAN is one of those things that a lot of people haven’t thought about, so it makes me feel good to shine a little light on it.

    Grace, that’s what I heard!

    Julia, I suspect the issue here is that people are looking at this situation through different lenses, and are therefore defining the problem differently. Solutions are so dependent on how a problem is defined and perceived. I think Mr. Naqvi is a decent human being and he constructed this Bill with good intentions. He sees this Bill as solving the problem that he perceives. However, I feel this Bill will exacerbate the problem that I see.

  • It is illegal to gang stalk to use enforcement and to use excessive use of force and secret surveillance in any fixed geographical location. That type of corruption has been around for multiple years however the ideal these days is to use social services and to close down specific areas of housing and to remove surplus monies and to steal it from the hands of innocent people and to police the monies is evil. There are other monies involved too for instance low wages and student loans and old pension and war veterans and gains and dietary monies.

    That is truly evil, I couldn’t imagine such bull.